short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

“Tony Stewart…and the verdict is…”


I confess that I’m not a NASCAR follower.  But I do know a few names and numbers–and  I do know there are days when people die on that oval altar of speed and big money.

Shift gears.

I have known two salt-of-the-earth people who endured the trauma of striking and killing another human being with their vehicles.  In both cases, the drivers were innocent of any wrongdoing.  The pedestrians just stepped in front of them on busy thoroughfares–both at night. The drivers were not speeding or texting or fiddling with the radio.  They were just driving.  But in a split second, a life ended, and their lives were changed forever.

Shift again.

Did you know that our eyes naturally adjust to the brightest object in our field of vision?  When we are driving at night, our pupils are constantly adjusting to dashboard lights and oncoming headlights, and  McDonald’s arches, and reflective road signs. Objects without lights aren’t as evident.

Clutch…shift again.

My parents taught us to stay out of the middle of the road…to walk on the left-hand side…and to look both ways before crossing.  They also insisted we wear brighter clothing when we walked or jogged in the evenings–so drivers could see us.

Now,… shifting down.

August 9, 2014, during a Sprint Cup race in upstate New York, veteran NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart struck and killed 20 year-old driver, Kevin Ward, Jr.  Ward had climbed out of his car after an accident allegedly caused by Stewart.  In the nighttime venue, under the glare of stadium lights, the young driver– dressed in a black jumpsuit and helmet, walking directly into speeding traffic like a crazed matador–was hit by Stewart’s car.  And it was all Tony’s fault?


Investigations and hearings rightly found no wrongdoing in Stewart’s actions and gave him the go ahead to race again.  Of course, now, there is talk of a civil suit against Stewart.

So what’s my point?

Though it is tragic young Kevin died–it wasn’t Tony’s Stewart’s fault.  In a moment of anger and frustration, the young driver did what anyone would admit was a foolish act–and, sadly, it cost him his life.

We so want it to be–we need for it to be–someone else’s fault, don’t we?  When we mess up…when the deal goes south…when we hurt ourselves or someone else.

But sometimes it is our fault.  And if we can own it, we just might learn from it….

…and live to drive another day.

Keith Elder


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4 thoughts on ““Tony Stewart…and the verdict is…”

  1. I do follow NASCAR (not as closely as I used to). I have never been a Tony fan, I think he’s a hothead. That said, I don’t think (and never did think) he intentionally harmed the boy. Was there a split second decision he could’ve made differently? I dont know, I haven’t seen all the evidence. I’m respecting the grand jury’s findings; they had the evidence. I too know someone who hit and killed another person (car vs motorcycle, 20+ years ago) and was in no way at fault and she has not been ‘whole’ ever since. She is well educated, holds a good job, loved by all, and seems to be perfectly normal, but those that know her know she is still affected by that every day.

    I am glad Tony got back into the car and raced – the longer he took to do that, the more worried I became. Will he continue after this season? Who knows. But I think the fact that he did get back in and race at least one race was a very crucial factor to his ‘recovery’.

    I think Tony is a good-hearted guy — I know he has done a lot and given a lot back to, in, and for his community. I wish him well. But I still won’t root for him on Sunday afternoons. 😉

    • That was a very well-reasoned, and sincere comment, Counselor–including the “…I still won’t root for him on Sunday afternoons.” lol:) I don’t know enough about Tony or Kevin to speak to motivation, I just know standing in the middle of a race track might be ill-advised. To blame anyone when you get hit would be a little like blaming gravity when you fall off of a ladder. Thanks for reading & comment!

  2. Not a NASCAR fan at all but I do believe that this was very sad. A good friend of mine hit and killed a pedestrian on a rainy night….it was ruled not his fault but he could never forgive himself. He never got behind the wheel of a car again. So many times in our lives bad things happen to good people. We make choices and we react….the driver should not have gotten out of the car….and could Tony Stewart have prevented hitting him? The only person who knows the why and how is God….and we have to let Him be in control. Great post Keith.

    • Thanks so much for reading, Karen. We’d all be goners without grace. “Just as I am, without one plea…” is my life theme song. Look both ways before you cross….

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